Cre­at­ing gen­der equal­i­ty in the char­i­ty sector

Written by
Lizzi Hollis
March 09, 2017

Last year, 2016, was a strange, bemusing and often depressing year. As a result of events such as Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the shocking murder of British MP Jo Cox, social justice is suddenly back on the public agenda everywhere. Films such as Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake have got people talking about the wealth divide in our societies and, in the UK, the decision by Nottingham police to record misogynistic street harassment as a hate crime has led to further debate on the UK’s institutionalised sexism towards women. It’s been a stressful year for most, but  despite all the political upheaval I feel there has been a huge shift where people are, more than I can remember in my lifetime, standing up for decency and respect of all people.

It is in this cultural turmoil that I have started a group to improve the inclusivity of our charity workplace, particularly focusing on gender. Charity Women was born out of a realisation that while women dominate the charity sector 70/30, senior, leadership and board positions are still dominated by men and the gender pay gap has more than doubled since 2013

I’m not the only one for whom 2016 has seen renewed interest in this crucial issue, across the charity world women and men alike have been championing the need for a more inclusive sector. If you’re looking for more information on the subject, below are some points of view from people dedicated to equality in the charity sector:

  • A report in Fundraising Magazine, Equality in the Workplace, showed us exactly the problems we face.
  • My own view of what needs to change to create a more equal sector on CharityConnect.
  • Matthew Sherrington told men why they are the problem in 101 Fundraising.
  • At the Institute of Fundraising Convention, rising star Michael Winehouse told us about the problems of having charity boards dominated by ‘old white men’.

On SOFII itself the question of gender imbalance came up following the Ask Direct Summer school (see above). When fundraisers from around the world are facing the same difficulties as a result of their gender, the charity sector really has a problem.

I was privileged to speak at the 2016 I Wish I’d Thought Of That event and SOFII should be given huge applause for giving a voice to so many really fantastic women in fundraising. Of the eighteen speakers, eleven of them were women and the event reflected the diversity of talent from CEOs, like Mandy Johnson now with Second Gift, to new kid on the block Alfie Waldron, copywriter at Open Fundraising, who at just 24 wowed everyone with his relaxed and engaging presentation style. Of the other women involved there were managers, heads of departments, those like Louise McCathie, of Birmingham Children's Hospital, who has fourteen years of experience under her belt, and women like me with barely four.

The fact that organisations like SOFII exist, who tackle the challenges we face in the charity sector with innovation and style to give a voice to women, who we might otherwise not hear from, is truly remarkable and something our own organisations should follow with enthusiasm.

Changes are coming: at the 2017 Institute of Fundraising's National Convention I will be chairing an all-female panel for Women Leaders in Fundraising. I have also mentioned the group I’m part of, Charity Women, where we are dedicated to learning from best practice in equality in other sectors. We are also talking to those in our own profession to discover how we can make gender equality work for everyone, especially when its main demographic is under-represented in senior positions. We are open to all, regardless of gender, and our aim is to create better leadership, workplace culture, confidence and recognition for a more diverse and equal charity sector. Please join us, SOFII and many other fundraisers in creating a sector that we can be proud to call gender-equal.

About the author: Lizzi Hollis

Lizzi started professional life with aspirations to be an archaeologist, but after joining her universities Annual Fund, discovered a talent for fundraising, which gained her the nickname "Telephone Terrier". She has had a fast rise through fundraising at Marie Curie, Independent Age, St Mungo’s and now Head of Corporate Partnerships at Richard House Children's Hospice. She is passionate about donor love, strategic partnerships, creating a fair and equal fundraising sector and personal development. In her spare time she loves baking, cycling, reading, watching football and crime dramas and eating her way around the world!

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